Thread Number: 35979  /  Tag: Pre-1950 Vacuum Cleaners
The Cadillac of Vacuum Cleaners
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Post# 385792   2/11/2018 at 00:17 by MadMan (Chicago, IL, USA)        

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Hi everyone! First post here.

I'm a car mechanic from Chicago, and I dabble in a lot of things. I'm more into antiques in general, than vacuum cleaners, but luckily there are some vacuums that fall into that category.

I thought I'd share my current project, and probably ask for some advice here and there.

When I was about 12 or so, my dad used to take me to the Maxwell St. flea market often. One day I saw this old vacuum. I'm 29 now, and I've had it ever since. The motor has always worked, but the whole thing's seen better days, and the time has finally come for it to see good days again.

The vacuum in question is (as far as I can divine) from 1938, Cadillac model 122F, from Clements Mfg. Chicago. The replaced cord and its general worn appearance makes me think it was used well for many, many years. It was missing the center cap as long as I've known it, I'll bet it was retired when it got lost or broken. After which it must've been left in a basement... that flooded and left standing water inside it that corroded the fan blade.

I'll be youtubing the whole restoration project, check the URL for the first vid. I have, up to now, totally rebuilt the motor assembly (working on the vid). Someday soon, I'll be going to my friend's machine shop to make some new plastic wheels for it, and hopefully a new cap. I've already sewn up a new bag, for practice, but I need to find the correct color fabric. And finally, I'll need to re-nickel plate several parts, still doing my homework on that.

Thoughts? Advice?


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Post# 385797 , Reply# 1   2/11/2018 at 02:32 by huskyvacs (Northern Indiana)        

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Oh wow, hello fellow brony :)

I've heard of these vaccuums but never understood why they were called Cadillac. Was it a partnership, a licensing agreement, or what. I first thought Cadillac themselves made them, as companies in the great depression tended to do to branch out.

They make reproduction cloth power cords you can buy in lengths that would look better than that ugly modern cord too.

Post# 385799 , Reply# 2   2/11/2018 at 03:01 by MadMan (Chicago, IL, USA)        

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Brony? Moi? What gave me away? :P Brohoof /)

Most of what I know about these is hearsay or speculation (possibly from this site lol). I've heard it said that they made Cadillac, Lincoln, and Packard models - so clearly targeting the car companies - and also that they were marketed to the respective car dealerships, as incentives for car buyers. Though I've never seen any mention or picture of a Lincoln model, a very nice Packard has long been on ebay.

For a while I was on board with your line of thought, the depression made Clements stoop to low levels of marketing trickery, but if you look at (apparently they never went out of business), they very defensively state that they trademarked the name Cadillac in 1912, and still use it.

I also thought they were a sort of 100 year old equivalent to cheap Chinese appliances, but the more I work on this, the more I've come to appreciate that there was a lot of love and attention put into every detail of it. Plus I started looking up the patents, and come to find that George Clements has over 25 patents, most of them vacuum cleaner related. It's safe to say that he was a vacuum cleaner guy. His earlier patents are under a 'Renovating' company, and refer to steam-powered vacuum cleaners on horse-drawn carriages, the 1910 equivalent of a carpet cleaning service.

As for the hideous power cord, it'll get repurposed someday. I bought a nice 100ft spool of black cotton cloth covered wire with a white tracer. Looks like an old electric iron cord. Not actually appropriate, as the original cord was black rubber... let's just say I'm making it better :)

Post# 385805 , Reply# 3   2/11/2018 at 06:43 by tolivac (Greenville,NC)        

Clements is still with us today-they make blowers for inflation,drying,plastics welders,and an externalfilter bag W/D vacuum.Uses the 10A dual speed blower for its suction.

Post# 385807 , Reply# 4   2/11/2018 at 08:30 by kenkart (Mocksville, NC)        
That Cadillac

Was made well into the 50s, they never changed it much, I have a Cadillac Quic Vac swivel top canister from 55.

Post# 385808 , Reply# 5   2/11/2018 at 08:34 by suckolux (Yuba City, CA)        

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Cool post, welcome to the site!

Post# 385812 , Reply# 6   2/11/2018 at 10:21 by electrolux137 (Land O Plenty USA)        


Howdy, and welcome! I've always liked the look of the Cadillac upright. Very angular and sleek.


btw There was also a line of Delco vacuum cleaners. Too bad Stan Kann and most of the other oldtimers are no longer with us; they could talk your ear off about these machines.

Post# 385835 , Reply# 7   2/11/2018 at 17:55 by portable (Tucson, AZ)        
MadMan -

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Welcome to Vacuumland.

I started researching Cadillac about 10 years ago, and I have a list of some of their models (based on years of advertisements placed). The 12x models tended to be the 2nd tier of cleaners, that is, the "B" line - loss leaders behind the top of the line.

Cadillac heavily advertised in the back pages of women's magazines and housekeeping/decorating magazines. You would write away to an address, and a salesman would follow up with a visit to you. Cadillacs tended to be in the low- to mid-price range of vacuums. Rarely did they reach the price of Hoovers, Electroluxes, Kirbys, etc.

My incomplete list turned up a model 124, a one-speed model with a headlight and turn-knob height adjustment; this was from a marketing brochure from a company called Marshall-Wells, dated 1939. So, possibly, your model is from earlier than the late 30's. Is yours a one-speed? Is there a switch to turn the headlight on and off? Those switched headlight models (and another switch for 2nd speed) tended to be on the "A" line models.

Post# 385849 , Reply# 8   2/11/2018 at 21:02 by MadMan (Chicago, IL, USA)        

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Thanks for the warm welcome guys!

I had recently found out Clements was still in business. I wasn't 100% sure they were the makers of that Cadillac blower, but I tell you, it hasn't changed much from the patent drawings 90 years ago. Ain't broke, don't fix it, I guess.

Portable - if you have any ads, I'd love to see them. I've only spotted either much earlier or much later designs in ads.

Mine does have the height adjustment, but I'd wager almost all of their horizontal motor models did, they have a patent just for that, and even stamped the patent date on the side of the adjuster. Otherwise, mine is a 1-speed, and does not have a switch for the light.

The way I divined the year 1938, is that 2 parts have numbers staring with '38' on them, and that it uses almost all Phillips head screws, which were introduced in 1937.

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Post# 385947 , Reply# 9   2/13/2018 at 11:51 by oldskoolguy (Chicago, Illinois)        

Welcome to the site! And hello to another fellow brony! You have found the Cadillac of vacuums, literally! I would call a Kirby the Cadillac of vacuums, but they're more known as the Rolls Royce of vacuums, which I have to agree with as well. My advice is that, because it is similar to such, this machine should be serviced like a Kirby. I'm not sure what belt it would take, but considering how it has the basic design of the Kirby (fan facing outwards), I would suggest that if it needs a belt, try a belt meant for earlier Kirby models (e.g. Dual Sanitronic 80, Sanitronic 7, 515, 560, 508, 505, 1c, 2r, etc.). As for the front of the machine, if you don't have a cap for the belt, maybe try a Royal adjust-o-rite. I'm not familiar with this machine nor have I really worked on vacuums like this one, so I couldn't say for sure what would and wouldn't work.

Post# 386092 , Reply# 10   2/14/2018 at 21:48 by MadMan (Chicago, IL, USA)        

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Thanks for the warm welcome! I see you're local - and a brony! I had no expectations of meeting any other horse people around here.

Sadly, it seems belts are sold by part number in this world (as opposed to by size like in the automotive world). I was planning on just popping in the local vacuum shop and asking to try some on.

As for the cap, my searches have come up dry. Thanks for the tip, but the adjust-o-rite doesn't look like it'll work. I've already resolved to make my own when I'm making the wheels at my friend's machine shop.

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Post# 386234 , Reply# 11   2/16/2018 at 16:41 by portable (Tucson, AZ)        

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As for the belt, I know my model works with a Royal belt. The most common Royal belt. But, your model may take a different size.

Post# 386261 , Reply# 12   2/17/2018 at 01:26 by MadMan (Chicago, IL, USA)        

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Does anyone here know anything about nickel plating? I'm going to have to replate all the nickeled stuff, and learn as I go.

Post# 386735 , Reply# 13   2/25/2018 at 18:08 by MadMan (Chicago, IL, USA)        

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I took off work and spent my whole Saturday at my friend's machine shop. While I had used a lathe before, I'd never had to, you know, figure out HOW to make something on it. Planning the steps, measurements, math, etc. That being said, I got everything mostly right the first time!

I made a set of 4 wheels and 2 belt cover caps - as I don't know which locking design I'm going to use (and the rest of the work has to be done by hand anyway). The caps (upper right) actually turned out very good, and they'd look pretty just as they are. But I cut a depression into the face so I could put a round piece of sheet aluminum with the emblem there. You can't tell, but the perimeter is knurled.

The wheels turned out perfect in shape, but a little ugly. The special tool I used seemed sharp, but I suppose because it was rounded, it just didn't have the same bite that a pointy tool would have, so they're a little wavy. I'm working on polishing them. At the lower right, two of the old wheels are above two of the new ones.

Oh, also in the picture (top right) is a garter spring for a Eureka or something. I'm planning on using it to hold the bag onto the ring thingy. The original bag was held on by a ring of rust that used to be a bundle of steel wires (and sealed with some kind of gum or goop that was still squishy O_o). It seems like this spring will work.

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Post# 386747 , Reply# 14   2/26/2018 at 01:07 by huskyvacs (Northern Indiana)        

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You can also use hose clamps if the spring doesn't work. Paint it too so it camouflages with the bag, wouldn't be able to see it from afar.

That caulking might have been some form of industrial grade or acoustical sealant, they used it in old homes like mine to block drafts at the gaps between the floorboards and the walls. It never fully cures, so it's always pliable and flexes with the floor without cracking. It's amazing what we made back then that was so advanced compared to now when you have caulking that hardly lasts 5 months.

Nice job with the machine, a lot of us could only be so lucky to have access to a machine shop and the skill to craft something such as that! If you don't annoy your friend, I'm sure you could offer a service to collectors here that might want some part milled out that cannot be found? I can't think of many machine shops that would do a service of little one-off small items such as vacuum parts without doing something in bulk batches of 100-500+ things.

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